In my continuing quest to become an astronaut, I wanted to figure out what the "typical" astronaut's background is like, so I mined the NASA astronaut bios for information. I was interested in the educational, military, selection age, and spaceflight histories of the astronauts, so I focused on that information. I think the plots below speak for themselves, but if you'd like the raw data or have questions, please feel free to ask. Note that I only compiled information on NASA's 126 active and management astronauts. I didn't include the Payload Specialists, former, or international astronauts, although I might go back later and add them to the analysis.
I learned that only 36% of astronauts have earned doctorate degrees, but most of the astronauts selected with only a masters or bachelors had extensive NASA and/or military experience. The typical astronaut has one bachelors and one masters degree, although some do have more than one of either type of degree, with the most being 2 bachelors and 3 masters. Some other tidbits of note are that 4 astronauts have MBAs, 1 has a DVM, and only 1 has a MD/Ph.D.
I suspect the percentage of astronauts with military experience would go up if I included the larger pool or former astronauts too, since in the pre-shuttle era, nearly all astronauts were military. However, the current pool has a 60/40 split, meaning it's still beneficial to have a military background, but it's not a must.
One thing that been on my to-do list for a long time is earning my scuba divers certification. I started taking a scuba class during my junior year of high school but couldn't commit to the dive portion because I couldn't afford the cost of buying my own equipment (and rental wasn't an option for some reason). I started snorkeling in 2001 on my first Fiji trip during graduate school. I almost decided to earn my scuba certification then, but I couldn't afford the approximately $400 cost. Since then, I've also snorkeled in Tonga, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Hawaii. Now that I'm applying to be an astronaut and have a decent income, it's high time I start diving.
First, I investigated all PADI instructors on Oahu. The costs generally range from $250-$500 for 3-7 day classes. The best deals I found were $249 for a 4 day course and $275 for a 3 day course, both of which include all fees and gear rental in that price. This is good because I don't have to invest in buying my own equipment just to learn the sport.
I joined a social network called Space Democrats that is "dedicated to electing Democrats who support progressive space policies that maximize the positive impact of the US Space Program on the nation and the world." The discussions have been interesting, particularly with regard to the current U.S. Presidential candidates' positions on space issues. Check it out:
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